Passenger Vessels

American Jazz Freed From Sandbar

An inland river cruise boat stranded on Lake Barkley in western Kentucky for more than a week was refloated July 16.

The American Jazz was able to immediately get underway on its own power once it was freed from the sandbar, said Alexa Paolella, public relations manager for American Cruise Lines.

The vessel was deemed fit to sail following an inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard before continuing to Nashville, Tenn., where the cruise was originally to have concluded July 11. The boat’s 120 passengers were deboarded from the ship July 9 and spent two nights in a Nashville hotel, but 27 of the 49 crew members remained aboard.

The American Jazz ran aground outside the channel July 7 at Cumberland River Mile 62, near the bridge carrying U.S. 68 over the lake in the Canton community. No one was injured.

Jennifer Andrew, commander of Marine Safety Unit (MSU) Paducah, reported the boat was not damaged. The Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the grounding.

Coast Guard Lt. Phillip Baxter of MSU Paducah previously said lightering operations to lessen the weight of the boat were taking place July 15, mainly through the removal of fuel.

Cables were expected to be attached to the vessel July 16, with another attempt to dislodge it scheduled for July 17, Baxter said. Two towing vessels had previously been unsuccessful in freeing it from the soft, muddy lake bottom.

–photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines 
The American Jazz was freed July 16 after being stuck on a Lake Barkley sandbar in western Kentucky since July 7. Passengers were deboarded July 9. No injuries occurred, and no damage was reported in a Coast Guard inspection after it was freed. The Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the grounding.

Instead, the vessel began to show signs of movement, which may have been associated with the lake level’s rise, and towing vessels were able to move it earlier than expected.

“At 3:22 p.m., salvage crews and the riverboat crew were able to free the riverboat from being aground by using a combination of a tug and barge setup along with the ship’s propulsion,” the Coast Guard said in a news release July 16.

Local media reported it took 2 ½ hours with the ship’s engines in full reverse and the aid of a crane to free it. As part of the salvage plan, American Cruise Lines had activated a salvage and marine firefighting agreement with Donjon-SMIT.

American Jazz’s next cruise is scheduled to depart July 25.

“American Cruise Lines would like to sincerely thank everyone on the ground in Kentucky for their tireless and continued efforts to refloat American Jazz,” the company said as part of a news release July 16. “The modern riverboat became stuck on a sandbar in Lake Barkley late last week, during one of American’s eight-day Music Cities cruises between Memphis and Nashville.”

The tremendous work that was done by the local companies this week has been above and beyond expectations and was key to today’s success. American would also like to thank the U.S. Coast Guard for deploying resources, keeping the waterway safe, coordinating efforts with all the members of the local community and the Coast Guard Auxiliary and in supporting all the companies that refloated American Jazz. American would especially like to acknowledge the following companies for their expertise, equipment and manpower: DonJon Smit, Florida Marine, Luhr Bros., Moran Environmental, Three Rivers Boat Yard, Lucas Hale and Haynes Marrs and Associates. American Cruise Lines also greatly appreciates the commitment of the dedicated crew who remained aboard American Jazz; for their initial efforts to safely disembark all passengers and for their continued work throughout the week to ready the riverboat for its next cruise.”

The company also thanked local officials, including David Elliott, state of Kentucky emergency management operations for Area 1; David Bryant, Trigg County emergency manager; and Paula Flood, Trigg County deputy emergency manager.

The American Jazz is the newest cruise boat from American Cruise Lines. It began cruising March 21. American Cruise Lines operates 13 boats, all accommodating 100 to 190 passengers. They cruise with more than 35 itineraries in more than 30 states.